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Chicken owners seek free range in city

Maude, an urban chicken of Los Angeles, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: This'll help get your breakfast to cluck -- click. And help your pocketbook too. Seems there are quite a few folks going the route of backyard chicken coup. Owners say hens churn out delicious, fresh eggs for just a few bucks a week. But we're not talkin' rural Ohio or the hollers of Virginia. How about downtown Philly? Where having chickens is against the law. Our wingman Joel Rose reports.


Joel Rose: At first glance, Zoe's backyard looks typical for a house in West Philadelphia. There's a big wooden deck and a yard extending another 10 feet back. And then, there's the chicken coop.

Zoe: Come here girls, come here, come here girls. Look what I got.

The four birds converge from all corners of the yard, pecking vigorously at the sunflower seeds she dispenses.

Zoe: The white one kind is the ugliest, in my opinion. But she's the best layer. And I was reading somewhere that the uglier the chicken, the better the layer.

Zoe spends about $1.50 a week on chicken feed. In exchange, she gets two to four fresh eggs a day.

Zoe: They're really good. They just taste eggier.

But there's a reason she doesn't want me to use her last name. Like many cities around the country, Philadelphia prohibits backyard chickens.

Tara Schernecke: They defecate everywhere. So if somebody's not really diligent in cleaning, I mean that's, it can get all over the place.

Tara Schernecke is interim director of Philadelphia Animal Care and Control. She says chickens can pose a health hazard if they attract rodents. She says the birds need a lot of space.

Schernecke: Chickens are kuje little roosting guys. They like to run around. They do not like to be cooped up in a small area. It's just not fair to them.

But backyard chicken enthusiasts disagree. They're petitioning the city to make chickens legal in Philadelphia -- just like they are in hundreds of other cities around the country.

Thomas Kriese: Chicken chicken chickens! Come on!

Thomas Kriese keeps two chickens in Redwood City, Calif., a suburb of San Francisco. He writes a blog called UrbanChickens.net, where he tracks successful chicken legalization efforts from Asheville, N.C. to Vancouver, B.C.

Kriese: There seems to be more of a push towards hey, this makes good economic sense for me to have a little more food security. I can grow my own garden, I can raise my own chickens for eggs.

And Kriese says one man's chicken poop is another man's fertilizer. He admits that if the chickens are left unattended, they'll make a meal out of his vegetable garden. But he says the trade-off is worth it.

Kriese: Now I'm going to open the latch to the coop itself. And when I look in, wow -- I have three eggs.

I'm Joel Rose for Marketplace.

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